The announcement follows the closing of UCU strike ballots last weekLouis Ashworth

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced that eight days of strike action will commence at 60 UK Universities including the University of Cambridge from 25th November.

Strikes will continue until 4th December, which falls in the last week of full term. 

The announcement follows a UCU ballot which closed last week in which 80.94% of those who ballotted at Cambridge voted in favour of industrial action over pensions and working and living conditions. The Cambridge ballot saw a 57.42% turnout.

The UCU has further announced that “action short of a strike” will be sustained after strikers return to work on 4th December, including “working strictly to contract” and “refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action”.

In a statement to Varsity, the University said that it “respects the right of UCU members to take industrial action, and recognises that those who strike will not take a decision to do so lightly”, adding: “We... are committed to working with our unions at Cambridge to stand up for staff pensions and improve remuneration and working practices.”

In a message to students yesterday, Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Graham Virgo stated that, in the event of industrial action, “the University will make all reasonable efforts to ensure your studies are not adversely affected’ including ensuring that all University and faculty facilities and services “will remain open as usual.” 

The statement also emphasised that, as this is a University-level dispute, “all College work, including undergraduate supervisions, will continue as normal throughout any strike period.”

It is as yet unclear how the planned strikes will affect students in different departments. Strikes in 2018 were disproportionately focused on the arts and humanities departments, a higher proportion of whose staff were members of UCU compared to their colleagues in science and engineering.

It is likely that picket lines will be erected across University sites including Sidgwick Site and Downing Site, and students will be asked to support striking staff by not entering picketed areas during strike days.

In a statement to undergraduate Historians, Student Representatives on the History Faculty Board Ben Margolis and Jacob van Buren told students that it was in their “direct interests” to support striking staff, including refusing to attend lectures by non-striking academics, and “taking out books on non-strike days” in order to avoid crossing picket lines.

A spokesperson for Cambridge Defend Education, which says it will be organising support for staff strikers during the planned action, told Varsity that “as students, we stand in solidarity with our striking staff” adding that “overworked and underpaid staff are symptomatic of a higher education system that prioritises profit over learning”

Formal strike action was last undertaken at Cambridge in February 2018 following a pensions dispute between the University and College Union (UCU), which represents over 120,000 higher education employees, and Universities UK (UUK), the representative organisation for higher education institutions including the University.

That phase of industrial action was resolved in April 2018 after UCU members voted in favour of proposals put forward by UUK to appoint an expert panel to assess future transitions to a “defined contribution” pension scheme, which balloters had previously opposed.

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